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Big Ten Basketball: Surprises and Disappointments

Northwestern doesn't play again for a week, so let's take a look at the early surprises and disappointments around the conference.

Most Surprising Team

Indiana Hoosiers

So far the Cody Zeller era is off to a flying start, as the Hoosiers are 8-0 headed into a massive game Saturday at home against top-ranked Kentucky. The schedule has been pretty soft, as NC State is the only decent team Indiana has beaten (and they were greatly aided by the worst intentional foul call of all time late in that win), but Tom Crean's team has been impressive. The key thus far (besides Zeller giving Crean his first competent big man) has been the emergence of sophomore wings Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey, who have provided scoring, athleticism and some much-needed defense. If they can somehow take out Kentucky this weekend, then Indiana will finally be back.

Most Disappointing Team

Iowa Hawkeyes

I expected Iowa to struggle, but thus far they've shown no improvement over last season, and in fact might be worse. They're not just losing, they're getting routed, losing by 23 to Creighton, by 20 to Northern Iowa, by 16 to Campbell (!), and by 16 to Clemson in a game that wasn't nearly that close. Penn State was the consensus pick for last place in the Big Ten, but Iowa might give them a run for their money.

Most Surprising Players

Reggie Hearn, Northwestern

Over the course of one off season, Hearn has gone from playing exclusively in garbage time to starting. Thus far he has given NU solid minutes, hitting 37.5% of his threes and providing decent defense. He's been a bit careless with turnovers and may start being exposed in Big Ten play, but the fact he's contributed at all is a shock. If you'd told me before the season that Hearn would be starting, I would have assumed Northwestern was headed to the Big Ten basement.

Tim Frazier, Penn State

As the only returning starter for the extremely young Nittany Lions, Frazier has been outstanding, carrying Penn State to their 6-4 record. He's averaging 17 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds and 2 steals per game, all of which lead the team, and his tempo-free stats are even more impressive: Frazier leads the nation in assist rate, as he's assisted on 54.7% of Penn State's field goals. Without him on the roster, Penn State would probably be right there with Boston College or Utah in the race for worst BCS conference ever: when Frazier has a bad game, PSU does things like losing to Lafayette or score 10 points in a half vs. St. Joseph's.

Jared Berggren, Wisconsin

It probably shouldn't be a surprise that some big white guy for Wisconsin has come out of nowhere to be really good, as it happens every year basically, but Berggren and his random extra "g" that I always forget to type is off to a strong start, averaging 12 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks per game, excellent numbers for glacially slow Wisconsin. Bo Ryan is like the anti-Bill Carmody in developing big men.

Most Disappointing Players

Melsahn Basabe, Iowa

After a promising freshman year, Basabe is in the course of a major sophomore slump, averaging just 7 points per game on putrid (for a big man) 40% shooting. Apparently Basabe tried to add some bulk to his frame in the off season but instead just got fat. Oops.

Travis Carroll, Purdue

I don't think much was expected out of Carroll, but he's been so bad it warrants mention. As a 6 foot 9 post player, Carroll has hit just 9 of 24 two point field goals and has somehow only attempted two free throws the entire season in nearly 160 minutes played. That's Vince Scott levels of softness, and Matt Painter has taken notice and is giving a lot more minutes to freshman Jacob Lawson.

Tre Demps, Northwestern

This may be a bit unfair to Demps, who is playing through a shoulder injury, but at this point I think NU would have been better off if Demps had just red-shirted. He's barely played outside of garbage time, and when he does play he can't shoot a lick, hitting 3 for 17 from the field and 1 for 5 from the free throw line. It's a good thing that Dave Sobolewski has proven to be a serviceable point guard because Demps has brought nothing to the table.